Less than half the population is expected to vote in the provincial elections today. This is regrettable but it is also understandable, given the arcane structure of this plebiscite.
The provincial elections are ostensibly about provincial matters such as the construction of new motorways and problems with public transport. But don’t be fooled. What they are really about is electing the members of the upper house of parliament (Senate), a powerful body that can effectively veto legislation from the lower house.
The senators are chosen by the provincial councillors who are chosen by the electorate. The poor voters have to listen to stories about new windmill parks and harbour extensions while knowing that their vote could eventually mean more spending on nuclear weapons.
The campaigning is confusing, with most of it done at a national level by political leaders who are not up for election. The real question today is not about more buses for the elderly in Groningen, but whether the newly formed coalition government will lose its majority in the upper house. This is possible and would mean an end to some of the plans the cabinet has on its wish list.
The whole crackpot system is a compromise dating back to 1848 when the lower house was allowed to be directly elected. The rich and powerful at the time couldn’t stomach the idea of everything being up for grabs. Times have certainly changed since then. It’s a disgrace the electoral system hasn’t moved with them.
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